No-see-ums (Culicoides and other species) are minute flies barely visible to the eye. Also known as punkies, biting midges or 5-0s, for their propensity to come out around 5 p.m., they make their presence known with painful bites. If you enjoy spending time outdoors in the summertime, you may have encountered no-see-ums. Learning how to repel them and can help you enjoy gardening or relaxing outside without those pesky insect bites.
Knowing Your Nemesis
Adult no-see-ums are less than 1/8 inch long (some less than 1/16 inch long) and look like a smaller, more compact version of the mosquito. They commonly breed along the edges of moist areas, such as ponds, marshes or areas of standing water in your yard. The eggs are laid in the soil and hatch into worm-like larvae in about three days. As larvae, they feed on organic matter in a state of decomposition before pupating. Once they become adults, they are busy feeding and mating.
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Fighting the Bite
No-see-ums bite to feed on your blood, which serves the mass rearing of young insects. Despite their tiny size, these insects deliver a painful bite that results in a red welt or bump about 1/8 inch in size. Bites can also develop into water-filled blisters. As you scratch the itchy-feeling bites, they can open and bleed. Even at this point, the itching continues. Over-the-counter topical cortisone cream and anti-inflammatory medicine can help relieve itching and swelling to help you avoid scratching the bites open.
Ending Their Cycle
Standing water on your property can increase the presence of no-see-ums in your yard. Drain and rinse out birdbaths daily, and fill in any holes or ruts in the yard that hold standing water. Applications of insecticides provide little relief. They may help reduce the adult population but, because the life cycle is so short, you must use them regularly. To keep no-see-ums from entering your home, make sure your door and window screens are smaller than a 16-mesh.
Prevention is one of the most effective methods for dealing with no-see-ums. During their most active times in early morning and evening, wear light-colored clothing that covers your body, footwear that covers your feet, and a hat. Apply an insect repellent that contains DEET to your clothing and exposed skin, or wear netting for protection. Organic botanical insect repellants that contain eucalyptus, citronella, and other plant extracts may also offer a measure of protection. When sitting on your patio or deck, an overhead fan or oscillating fan helps keep no-see-ums away from the area.
You can make your own insect repellent using a number of different essential oils. Citronella, lemon, and eucalyptus can all be effective repellents. Never use full strength essential oil on your skin. Instead, you can dab a few drops on your clothing or mix with water to create a spray. You can also add witch hazel to your mixture for added benefits.